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2020 New Zealand Dairy Industry Award Winners Demonstrate Perfect Progression Pathway

2020 Share Farmers of the Year Nick & Rosemarie Bertram, Hawkes Bay Wairarapa. Photo credit: NZDIA 2020

The 2020 Share Farmers of the Year are an outstanding example of hard work, dedication and leadership who are honest, traditional and epitomise sharemilker progression planning.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, a gala dinner to announce the winners was not possible, so another way was found to celebrate success within the dairy industry. For the first time ever, the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards winners were announced on national television and aired on Country TV on Saturday night.

Nick and Rosemarie Bertram from Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa were named the 2020 New Zealand Share Farmers of the Year, Bay of Plenty’s Andre Meier became the 2020 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year and Grace Gibberd from Waikato was announced the 2020 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year. They shared prizes from a pool worth over $215,000.

Share Farmer head judge, Jacqui Groves from Westpac, says the Bertrams impressed the judges by remaining true to their vision, their mission and values in life. “They were high achievers in all areas.”

Nick and Rose, aged 33 and 27 years respectively, are 50/50 sharemilkers on Barry and Carol McNeil’s 150ha, 440-cow Woodville property.

Nick won the 2014 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year and was runner-up in the Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa Share Farmer category last year. He and Rosemarie believe the Awards programme has opened many doors and job opportunities for them.

To win the national title and just over $52,000 in prizes, Nick and Rosemarie demonstrated strengths in pasture management, leadership, business and communication. They also won four merit awards: the Ravensdown Pasture Performance Award, the Federated Farmers Leadership Award, the DeLaval Interview Award and the Westpac Business Performance Award.

Fellow Share Farmer judge Matt Richards, from Southland says the Bertrams have a sound understanding of maximising pasture principles which influence operating profit and nutrient management. “They have a ‘back-to-basics’ style of farm practice, which includes no in-shed feeding, no topping, no feed pad and no irrigation,” he said.

The judges also noted that the Bertrams were up-to-date and well-researched on current affairs “They were both able to confidently share their opinions and views and were humble yet balanced.”

Judge Guy Michaels from DairyNZ noted how strong Nick and Rosemarie were in their community involvement and leadership. “They share a goal of giving back to their community through their local fire brigade, Rural Support Trust, Farmstrong and Federated Farmers.”

The Bertrams impressed the judges with their commitment to being a hands-on couple, running a profitable business and driven to repay debt. “They have an understanding of where they want to be.”

“Nick and Rosemarie have demonstrated the perfect pathway to progression, achieving a goal of 50/50 sharemilking with no backgrounds in farming.”

Jacqui says the judges were extremely impressed overall at the high calibre of this year’s finalists. “We usually see a key theme coming through but this year the finalists focused on all areas across the board.”

The judges noted that while the world was in pandemic mode, it was business as usual for the finalists, while they also looked after the wellbeing of their staff. “They demonstrated how to be the backbone of New Zealand.”

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Honda, LIC, Meridian Energy, Ravensdown and Westpac along with industry partners DairyNZ and PrimaryITO.

The runners-up in the Share Farmer of the Year competition, Waikato sharemilkers Aidan and Sarah Stevenson, impressed the judges by their determination to live their mission statement of ‘Farming for the Future’.

“They really cared about the safety of their team,” says Jacqui. “They utilised YouTube for training, held regular toolbox meetings and had clear policies around contractor management.”

The Stevensons, both aged 31, have been 50/50 sharemilking for Sue Williams on her 100ha, 330-cow Ngarua property since 2013, with Aidan coming to the dairy industry from building in 2011.

They won the DairyNZ Human Resources merit award, the LIC Recording & Productivity Award and over $28,000 in prizes.

The judges noted how proud Aidan and Sarah are of the history of their efficiently run family farm, and with Farming for the Future as their vision, they keep this going though clear lines of communication and particularly good staff development.

Southland/Otago contract milkers Samuel and Karen Bennett, both aged 31, placed third in the Share Farmer category, winning almost $20,000 in prizes.

The judges noted the Bennetts were a well-connected, high achieving couple who demonstrated a way to progress that is untraditional. They invest in off-farm properties that generate good returns which enables them to meet their goals.

The couple are contract milking 630 cows on Andrew and Jenny Calder’s 223ha farm in Wyndham and also won the Meridian Farm Environment Award.

The 2020 Dairy Manager of the Year stood out as a quiet yet confident person who is very capable and connects with a wide range of people in the community.

Andre Meier, 30, is Farm Manager on Ao Marama Farms on 250ha Te Puke farm, milking 800 cows. He won just under $22,000 in prizes and won the DeLaval Livestock Management and Meridian Leadership merit awards.

Dairy Manager Head Judge Mark Shadwick from DairyNZ said amongst a strong group of finalists, Andre stood out as proactive manager and leader who constantly seeks opportunities to grow and learn and helps others to do the same.

“Andre is an all-rounder who has established himself as a successful dairy manager whose track record speaks for itself,” says Mark. “He is involved in his community as Chair of the Te Puke Young Farmers, through his involvement in the A&P Show Committee, as a Federated Farmers area rep and by hosting Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology students.”

Andre has a focus on animal welfare and cites once-a-day milking is a strength of the business. “He has labour-efficient systems, highest standard livestock records and detailed farm mating policies,” says judge Malcom Scott from Westpac. “Together with bull management and six-week in-calf rates has resulted industry-leading reproduction performance.”

The Dairy Manager judges were impressed by the calibre of all the finalists and by their focus on the work/life balance of their team. “There was a definite overall theme of teamwork and unity of the work force and making sure everyone is on the same page.”

The finalists all recognised the importance of education and were growing not just in their appreciation and understanding of what goes on on-farm, but what happens off-farm as well.

“They want their work/life balance more than profit,” says judge Annalize du Plessis, from Dipton.

The Dairy Manager runner-up, Paul Mercer from Manawatu, won the LIC Interview and Ravensdown Feed Management merit Awards and $11,410 in prizes.

Paul is the Farm Manager on Robert Ervine’s 140ha, 370-cow property in Palmerston North and is currently studying extramurally for a Bachelor of AgriCommerce through Massey University.

The judges were impressed by Paul’s deep understanding of broad issues that will affect the dairy industry and that he was able to speak eloquently about them. “Paul’s capability of engaging a wide audience was very impressive.”

“Paul is an established manager and a true all-rounder,” says Malcolm. “His favourite question is ‘Why?’ and he is constantly challenging himself to upskill.”

The judges noted Paul’s focus on optimising soil fertility, protecting pastures and in-depth understanding of the nutritional qualities and financial viability in supplements demonstrated his excellent feed management skills.

Daisy Higgs, 24, from Waikato placed third and won almost $8,000 in prizes and the DairyNZ Employee Engagementmerit award.

Daisy is Farm Manager for Gavin and Maree Haddon on their 91ha farm, milking 300 cows in Morrinsville.

The judges describe Daisy as an extremely engaging, driven and analytical person with excellent attention-to-detail and the ability to communicate to, and to reach, a wide audience. “She is a forward thinker and has the potential to be a leader within the dairy industry as her confidence grows,” says Annalize.

Judges predict the 2020 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year, Grace Gibberd will be a great ambassador and role model for the Dairy Industry.

“Grace displayed an exceptional overall understanding of general knowledge and was clear, confident and articulate with her answers,” says Dairy Trainee head judge Mark Nicholas.

Grace, aged 21 years, won $9,700 in prizes including a Honda XR Farm Motorbike, along with the Federated Farmers Farming Knowledge and DairyNZ Practical Skills merit Awards.

Grace has a passion for animals, people and her role as Farm Assistant on the DairyNZ 115ha property at Newstead, milking 360 cows.

She has sound knowledge and in-depth understanding across all four practical modules of pasture allocation requirements, dry matter conversions, condition scoring and her attention to health and safety was clearly evident and comprehensive.

The judges say all the Dairy Trainee finalists are passionate about higher education and they are very well-rounded young men and women who possess a great understanding of national and global issues.

“It was remarkable to see how much the finalists appreciated their employers, their good working conditions and the amount of knowledge that other people in the industry were willing to share with them. The New Zealand dairy industry is in great shape with these young people coming through,” says Mark.

The dairy trainee judges made special mention of all the finalists’ videos, which were made under lockdown conditions. “We were very impressed as every finalist had to improvise in some way, including using a gate gudgeon to hang their phone on!”

The Dairy Trainee runner-up, Sam Dodd from Taranaki also won the DeLaval Communication & Engagement merit Award together with $5,500 in prizes.

The 23-year-old is 2IC on Mike and Viv Joyce’s property, on their 110ha, 370-cow farm in Hawera.

The judges noted that Sam demonstrated a high level of confidence, maturity, knowledge and passion for the dairy industry through his thorough, compelling and well-considered responses.

Sam was a top performer in the health and safety module and his passion for the dairy industry was apparent through his phenomenal communication.

Third placegetter is Tom Quinn, 24 years from Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa. He is Senior Farm Assistant on Selwyn and Jenny McLachlan 210ha, 920-cow farm at Masterton.

The judges described him as a very professional farmer who articulated his answers well during the interview and showed a depth of understanding and interest across industry levels. He won $3,000 in prizes.

2020 New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year:

  • Winner – Nicholas & Rosemarie Bertram, Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa
  • Runner-up – Sarah & Aidan Stevenson, Waikato
  • Third – Samuel & Karen Bennett, Southland/Otago
DairyNZ Human Resources AwardSarah & Aidan Stevenson
Ecolab Farm Dairy Hygiene AwardDavid Noble & Katy Jones
Federated Farmers Leadership AwardNicholas & Rosemarie Bertram
Honda Farm Safety, Health & Biosecurity AwardSarah & Aidan Stevenson
LIC Recording & Productivity AwardSimon & Natasha Wilkes 
Meridian Farm Environment AwardSamuel & Karen Bennett
Ravensdown Pasture Performance AwardNicholas & Rosemarie Bertram
Westpac Business Performance AwardNicholas & Rosemarie Bertram
DeLaval Interview AwardNicholas & Rosemarie Bertram

2020 New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year:

  • Winner – Andre Meier, Bay of Plenty
  • Runner-up – Paul Mercer, Manawatu
  • Third – Daisy Higgs, Waikato
DairyNZ Employee Engagement AwardDaisy Higgs
DeLaval Livestock Management AwardAndre Meier
Fonterra Dairy Management AwardKrishna Dhakal
LIC Interview AwardPaul Mercer
Meridian Leadership AwardAndre Meier
PrimaryITO Power Play AwardChance Church
Ravensdown Feed Management AwardPaul Mercer
Westpac Personal Planning & Financial Management AwardStephen Smyllie

2020 New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year:

  • • Winner – Grace Gibberd, Waikato
  • • Runner-up – Sam Dodd, Taranaki
  • • Third – Tom Quinn, Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa
DairyNZ Practical Skills AwardGrace Gibberd
Federated Farmers Farming Knowledge Award Grace Gibberd
DeLaval Communication & Engagement AwardSam Dodd
Best Video Award presented by StreamlinerLucy Morgan

Fonterra Responsible Dairying Award:

  • Nick and Nicky Dawson, Napier

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